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Obstetrics & Gynecology in Augusta, GA
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Augusta, Ga. 30901
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Human Body

Be Thankful and Be Amazed

body   

We take a lot for granted.  In these months devoted to celebrations and new beginnings, take a moment and ponder your own amazing human body.  Now many of you may wish you had a sturdier chassis, a bigger motor, a smaller bumper, or a flashier exterior, but the reality is that the model you operate within is nothing short of extraordinary.  Consider the following:

  • The average human brain has about 100 billion nerve cells.
  • Nerve impulses to and from the brain travel as fast as 170 miles per hour.
  • Your stomach needs to produce a new layer of mucus every two weeks or it would digest itself.
  • It takes the interaction of 72 different muscles to produce human speech.
  • The average life of a taste bud is 10 days.
  • The average cough comes out of your mouth at 60 miles per hour.
  • Relative to size, the strongest muscle in the body is the tongue.
  • Human thigh bones are stronger than concrete.
  • Our eyes are always the same size from birth, but our nose and ears never stop
  • growing.
  • The average human blinks their eyes 6,205,000 times each year.
  • Your skull is made up of 29 different bones.
  • The average surface of the human intestine is 656 square feet .
  • 15 million blood cells are destroyed in the human body every second.
  • The average human will shed 40 pounds of skin in a lifetime.
  • Every year about 98% of the atoms in your body are replaced.
  • Every human spent about half an hour as a single cell.
  • There are 45 miles of nerves in the skin of a human being.
  • The average human heart will beat 3,000 million times in its lifetime and pump 48
  • million gallons of blood.
  • During a 24-hour period, the average human will breathe 23,040 times.

As a physician I am perpetually in awe of our incredible body.  Even when it doesn’t function well, such as in disease, it has an uncanny ability to attempt to rectify the malady.  While the rest of the universe spirals away towards increasing chaos and entropy, the human body strives for homeostasis.   Modern medical and scientific research has explained many of the previously unknown mechanisms driving this tendency towards self preservation; however, there is still a vast depository of components and interactions that are still wrapped in a cloak of mystery.  Even knowing how something works on a cellular level, like the immune system or the blood clotting cascade, can only give one pause to contemplate the precision and perfection it embodies.

Understanding the physical properties and dynamic interaction of our body is only a small part of what makes us human.  We are so much more than our physical beings.  The mind and spirit of each person is so amazingly unique and pervasively interactive that they have to be praised and acknowledged along side the biochemistry.  Ever since man could ponder he has speculated about this interaction between mind, body, and spirit and those much wiser than I conclude that this triumvirate so intertwined as to be enmeshed.   The only logical conclusion is that true health is a balance of these three entities.  You can be physically fit but emotionally tattered, or you can be a spiritual giant and physically decrepit.  To fulfill the miracle that is your health, a balance must be achieved.

The ancient Greeks knew that balance was the ideal.  Socrates, prior to his Hemlock cocktail, said, “Everything in moderation,  nothing in excess.”  This advice is often overlooked in our contemporary society where we are often defined by our excesses.  Get more bling – run farther – close more deals – take more vitamins – all promulgating the idea that more is better.  It’s not, especially when it comes to your health.  For example, eating balanced meals of moderate calorie intake is more healthy than either eating too much, too little, or too restrictively.  It is hard for me to accept, but even exercising to an extreme can have some negative consequences.  Severe emotional extremes, high highs and low lows, is actually a psychological disorder. Embracing balance is the best way to allow mind, body, and spirit to flourish.

Let me give you a personal example to illustrate this point. I like to run marathons and, in the midst of training, inevitably I will come down with a cold.  This happens almost always after a long training run when my body hasn’t had a chance to recover and it’s resources are devoted to damage control instead of immune surveillance.  A healthier approach would be to take the necessary rest days between long training runs to allow my body to compensate.  Sometimes taking my own advice is akin to getting a root canal with pliers!

For many, good health is a choice.  Choose wisely.

Ten Commandments of Good Health


Many years ago a desert dweller climbed a mountain and talked to a bush on fire.  What resulted was a set of laws that was to revolutionize mankind’s behavior.  These were not ten suggestions formulated by a long range planning committee nor were they ten proposals put forth by a strategic consultant, they were commandments from a Holy God.  These laws have become almost universally accepted, even by divergent religions, as wise and worthy of adopting. 

     With all humility and a sincere desire to be unpretentious (I am not even worthy enough to scrape the grasshoppers from Moses’ designer goat skin sandals), I propose the Ten Commandments of good health to serve as a lamppost for your journey down fitness lane.  It seems unfair to hurry through these guidelines, so I will opine in both this month’s and next month’s column to cover them all.

                                                      Commandment One

You Shall Exercise:

Live Longer, Reduce Stress, and Grow Your Brain

     Exercise is the elusive fountain of youth.  If you are heavy, harried or hormonal, moving with purpose is a critical part of the solution. Everyone knows exercise is good for you, but few of us follow through. Exercise begins above the neck with a commitment to self and family.  Part of this motivation lies in the hidden benefits of exercise that are not common knowledge such as the prevention of breast and prostate cancer,  reduction in the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease, and as a cure for clinical depression.  Start with a simple walking program and free yourself from the “couch of doom”.

Commandment Two      

You Shall Rest:

A Nap a Day May Keep the Doctor Away

     We live in a hurry-up culture where “Just Do It” supplants “Let It Be”. Busyness has be­come a virtue that is without merit.  Idle hands are the devil’s playthings only in those who haven’t learned the discipline of relaxation.  Certainly there is a place for goal setting and industrious behavior, but there is also a purpose in rest and play. Relaxing on purpose is healthier than just doing something aimlessly. A major area of our lives that is most affected by this culture of chaos is sleep. The average adult requires eight hours of restful sleep a night to function best the next day.  The average adult actually gets around six hours of sleep a night.  This obvious disconnect leads to chronic fatigue and foggy thinking.  40% of Americans (100 million people) are moderately to severely sleep-deprived!

Commandment Three     

You Shall Not Worry:

Make Stress Work For You

     Stress is the little yapping dog biting at the heels of our health.  It is generally an annoyance, but, if it goes on long enough, can become a festering wound.  There are a number of books and counselors that provide a wealth of guidance on effective stress management in a world that oozes anxiety.   Studies indicate that up to 75% of visits to doctors are related to anxiety.  Stress is simply a perception of an internal or external event and thereby can be influenced by our thoughts.  One person’s stress is another person’s opportunity.  You will never be without stress, but you can control and minimize the adverse effects. 

Commandment Four 

You Shall Get Checkups:

                                          Prevention Pays Lifelong Dividends

     A healthy mind and body is dependent on action and education, not passivity and ignorance.  You must be an advocate for you and your family’s well-being by embracing prevention.  Men are especially negligent in this arena, and often decisions regarding family health are delegated (by default) to women in the household.  Seventy percent of health decisions involving the family are made by mom, which includes checkups, vaccines, nutrition, and screening tests.  Most importantly, the woman, by her actions and decisions, sets the tone for current and future health decisions.  A major health care crisis today is not cancer, AIDs, or heart disease, but people not making healthy, proactive lifestyle decisions.  We have to transform a system based on sick care to one that truly embraces well care, and that can only be achieved by practicing individual, responsible prevention.

Commandment Five

You Shall Not Be Gluttonous:

Eat Your Way to Good Health

     

     We are often called a society of consumption.  The talking heads are referring to consumerism; however, the real consumption issue is what we eat.  Our diet has more of an impact on our health and longevity than almost any other activity.  Content and quantity are the evil twins of gluttony.  There are four simple guidelines that, if followed consistently, will provide a foundation of healthy nutrition that will build a legacy of wellness.  Simply stated, eat balanced, low fat, low sugar, and high fiber meals. It is possible to alter the health inheritance of our kids and grandkids by changing how we think about food.  You can spring the family from the prison of poor nutrition and not be held captive by your genetics through a simple and doable eating plan.  We truly are what we eat. 

Next month…what else but six through ten!

Healthy Tips

A celebration is often the result of an accomplishment, a special event , or honoring memories.  These are good things, but do we really need the “special” to warrant a celebration? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to delight in the relatively mundane?  Some of the happiest folks I know are those who relish just being able to get out of bed in the morning.  We can celebrate our health, good or bad, by reflecting on what a true miracle it is that all these billions of cells are working in concert to allow us to walk, run, think, eat, love, write, and even occasionally complain.  In celebration of simply being alive, I have compiled a list of healthy tips (or rambling recommendations) collected over the years to promote, extend, repair and rekindle your health.  Let the celebration begin!

   

People who rarely spend time outside (elderly, housebound) are at a greater risk for osteoporosis due to a lack of vitamin D, which is increased in sun exposure.  400 IU a day in supplement form can help prevent brittle bones.

Taking 400 micrograms of folic acid a day before getting pregnant can reduce the likelihood of neural tube defects in the baby (spina bifida, etc.)

Exercise 30 minutes every day.  The more and bigger the muscles used, the less time needed to achieve fitness (cross country skiing best, walking is good, using the channel changer is bad.)

The more colorful your meals the better. Bright colored fruits and veggies contain greater anti oxidants and other protective substances.

Use herbs (Black Cohosh) and vitamins (E) to control mild menopausal symptoms.  Many are scientifically valid and may work for you.

It’s not brain surgery; to eat healthy go low fat, low sugar, high fiber and balanced.

Eliminate soft drinks.  An extra can of soda a day can add 15 pounds in a year.

Almost half of all doctor visits are stress related.  A great tool for stress management is regular, aerobic exercise.

The solution to permanent weight loss is not dieting, it is getting fit.  Only muscles burn fat, and only muscles that are used!

If you are pressed for time, three ten minute exercise sessions can be as helpful as a single thirty minute segment.

Most women over twenty need to take some extra calcium (500mg) The better the bones before menopause, the better they are afterwards.

Eating habits are formed at an early age.  Teach children as early as two to be aware of good and bad food choices.

Don’t focus on weight.  Your per cent body fat and/or your Body Mass Index (BMI) are better measures of health.  Throw away the traditional scales and get a device that calculates body fat and BMI.  They are reasonably priced and accurate.

A good doctor will always encourage and support getting a second opinion…so in important decisions, do just that.

Don’t limit yourself by thinking that health is strictly physical.  Wellness is a balance of mind, body, and spirit.

Don’t skimp on preventive care.  The Pap test and mammogram have saved millions of lives.

If you have a strong family history of ovarian cancer (in mother or sister) demand a yearly sonogram and CA-125 blood test to check your ovaries.  It is far from a perfect screen, but it is the best available so far.

Young women (ages 9-26) who are not yet sexually active should strongly consider getting vaccinated against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). It is the single biggest cause of pre-cancer and cancerous changes in the cervix.

Acupressure has been effective for the nausea associated with early pregnancies. The most common device used is “Sea Bands”, an elastic band that applies pressure to a point on the wrist.

Caffeine consumption is one of the leading causes of bladder problems in women.  Eliminating caffeine from the diet may reverse symptoms of incontinence, frequency, and urgency.

Some women in the menopause need testosterone supplementation along with estrogen and progesterone to help with a lagging sex drive.

Many herbal medicines and treatments can interact with prescription drugs.  When getting your yearly checkup, don’t forget to tell your doctor about any supplements or herbs you take on a regular basis.

Before any surgery, always stop taking Ginkgo, Ginseng, Garlic, or vitamin E.  They can increase bleeding and lead to problems with the surgery.

Always bring two things to every doctor’s visit: a written set of questions and a list of your current medications.

20 percent of cancer deaths are related to obesity.  Maintaining a healthy weight may be your best guard against developing cancer.

Aerobic exercise might be better for your brain than your body.  Early studies show that exercise can cause damaged brain cells to regenerate, possibly thwarting diseases like Alzheimer’s.

The average person makes about 250 decisions about food every day and most people don’t have a clue as to what influences their choices. Consciously think about what you are eating and you will generally eat less.

A massage once a week can not only reduce muscle fatigue and soreness, but it can be just as good for stress management as a session with a counselor.

The quickest way to get fit with exercise is to WALC.  Wind sprints (just periodically increase the intensity of the exercise) Aerobic (this type of exercise burns fat) Lift (lifting weights builds muscle, which in turn increases metabolism) Cross train (vary your exercise regimen and you will get fit faster).

We hope you’ll find these healthy tips useful!